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Flu in pregnancy, or is it a cold?

The wet season is here with us. We can expect good tidings on the agricultural front, but seasonal health concerns in pregnant women and other risky groups (children and the elderly) also arise. The cold and wet season is globally associated with respiratory infections, with flu being among the more serious infections.

Flu is caused by strains of viruses called influenza. The peak of infections occurs between April and July in Kenya, coinciding with the wet season. Flus and colds are often used interchangeably, but they are completely different medical conditions. Colds are caused by rhinoviruses and are milder; often presenting with runny and stuffy noses, throat discomfort and mild coughs. There is rarely a fever and symptoms typically resolve within a week. Flu is however more serious and presents with sudden and severe symptoms that include sore throat, headaches, fevers, unusual tiredness and shortness of breath or coughs. Symptoms may last for up to two weeks.

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to flu due to a suppressed immune system. And if they catch flu, there is more risk of complications that can cause grievous harm to the pregnant mother or her unborn baby, in the worst cases leading to death. Most pregnant women will however only suffer mild symptoms, and recover within a week or so.

If you experience flu-like symptoms in pregnancy, especially in this wet season, please see your Obstetrician in good time. A nose or throat swab can be done to confirm the diagnosis. Antivirals can be prescribed to lessen the course of the illness, with additional medications to control fever, chest and other symptoms.

But the most effective strategy against flu is prevention. General hygiene measures can reduce but not completely eliminate the risk of catching flu. Frequently wash hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizers as appropriate. Clean hard surfaces like door handles, with appropriate cleaning products. Cover your mouth and nose with clean tissue when coughing or sneezing, and promptly and carefully dispose off the used tissue. Avoid unnecessary travel and crowded places which increase the potential of being exposed to infected people.

Flu vaccination is the best level of defence against serious flu illness. The flu vaccine is safe in pregnancy and does not cause any harm to the unborn baby. In fact the baby benefits from a protective effect of maternal vaccination in the first six months of life. Pregnant women can be vaccinated at any time during pregnancy, and preferably before the flu season begins each year. The vaccine is given as a single injection, and is available in many health facilities. The next time you attend an antenatal clinic appointment, make a point of enquiring about the flu vaccine as part of your optimal care./p> Take a fertility test today

The wet season is here with us. We can expect good tidings on the agricultural front, but seasonal health concerns in pregnant women and other risky groups (children and the elderly) also arise. The cold and wet season is globally associated with respiratory infections, with flu being among the more serious infections.

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